The House of the Vampire
By George Sylvester Viereck
THE next day Ernest wrote a letter of more or less superficial tenderness to Ethel. She had wounded his pride by proving victorious in the end over his passion and hers; besides, he was in the throes of work. When after the third day no answer came, he was inclined to feel aggrieved. It was plain now that she had not cared for him in the least, but had simply played with him for lack of another toy. A flush of shame rose to his cheeks at the thought. He began to analyse his own emotions, and stunned, if not stabbed, his passion step by step. Work was calling to him. It was that which gave life its meaning, not the love of a season. How far away, how unreal, she now seemed to him. Yes, she was right, he had not cared deeply; and his novel, too, would be written only at her. It was the heroine of his story that absorbed his interest, not the living prototype.
Once in a conversation with Reginald he touched upon the subject. Reginald held that modern taste no longer permitted even the photographer to portray life as it is, but insisted upon an individual visualisation. "No man," he remarked, "was ever translated bodily into fiction. In contradiction to life, art is a process of artificial selection."
Bearing in mind this motive, Ernest went to work to mould from the material in hand a new Ethel, more real than life. Unfortunately he found little time to devote to his novel. It was only when, after a good day's work, a pile of copy for a magazine lay on his desk, that he could think of concentrating his mind upon "Leontina." The result was that when he went to bed his imagination was busy with the plan of his book, and the creatures of his own brain laid their fingers on his eyelid so that he could not sleep.
When at last sheer weariness overcame him, his mind was still at work, not in orderly sequence but along trails monstrous and grotesque. Hobgoblins seemed to steal through the hall, and leering incubi oppressed his soul with terrible burdens. In the morning he awoke unrested. The tan vanished from his face and little lines appeared in the corners of his mouth. It was as if his nervous vitality were sapped from him in some unaccountable way. He became excited, hysterical. Often at night when he wrote his pot-boilers for the magazines, fear stood behind his seat, and only the buzzing of the elevator outside brought him back to himself.
In one of his morbid moods he wrote a sonnet which he showed to Reginald after the latter's return from a short trip out of town. Reginald read it, looking at the boy with a curious, lurking expression.
"Good stuff," Reginald remarked, laying down the manuscript; "when did you write it?'
"The night when you were out of town," Ernest rejoined.
"I see," Reginald replied.
There was something startling in his intonation that at once aroused Ernest's attention.
"What do you see?" he asked quickly.
"Nothing," Reginald replied, with immovable calm, "only that your state of nerves is still far from satisfactory."